When Caty Simandl talks about all the internal and external groups she’s involved with, it’s easy to understand why Matt Lentz, Werner Enterprises associate director of dedicated, wrote in his nomination that “Caty is one of the most involved individuals I have ever met.”
Her drive is apparent when she talks about how she got into trucking.
“I did college kind of the unconventional way,” says Simandl, who is an operations supervisor at Werner Enterprises working with dedicated accounts. She worked full time as a sales supervisor at Omni Hotels while working on a bachelor’s degree in general management. After graduating, she went to work at Werner after some friends “strongly suggested it,” as she says. She started as a transportation manager working with new drivers who had just gotten their CDL, and soon started working on a master’s degree in executive leadership and coaching.
“I grew up around mechanics and farmers, so [trucking] kind of felt like a good fit, honestly.”
She moved from operations trainee to transportation manager to operations supervisor in Werner’s one-way network. She’s been operations supervisor in Werner’s dedicated network since July 2022.
Diversity: Being Their Whole Selves
With a diverse background in working with people in both the hotel and transportation industries, Simandl says, “I find that diversity is important, and I am a huge proponent of acceptance and everyone being able to be their whole selves.”
So when Werner a few years ago started its Associate Resource Groups, or ARGs, she jumped in.
As Werner explains in a blog post, these groups offer “a platform of peers to connect with, exchange ideas and learn from one another … These groups play an important role in providing the tools we feel are necessary to ensure our DE&I goals are fulfilled. ARGs are led by associates who volunteer their time and efforts to promote cultural awareness, engagement and education.”
She started out with the YEL (Young Emerging Leaders) group as a steering committee member and now is co-chair of that group.
As part of the steering committee for Werner’s WEPride ARG for LGBTQIA+ employees, Simandl created a program called Safe Faces. This allows employees to indicate via stickers, banners, and internal social media, that they are safe place for LGBTQIA employees to turn to if they need someone.
“That was a really great project that I got to kind of kickstart,” she says. “It's really exciting to see all the stickers and banners everywhere, indicating that this is a safe space for everybody.”
That program branched out into a similar safe face campaign for domestic violence, as well, through another ARG.
Currently she’s also on the steering committee for another ARG, Werner’s Women's Leadership Alliance, where she is “helping plan events and motivate all of the women in the office and also help build their connections and develop their careers to ensure the continual growth of women leaders within Werner,” she says.
Simandl is also involved with groups outside of work for young professionals and women in the Omaha business community.
Heading up networking efforts is a key part of Simandl's involvement with these various groups.
“I think especially through the course of Covid, now that we're kind of coming out the other side of that, we've lost a lot of the connection opportunities that we had previously,” she says. “And we also have a newer generation who spent most of their time in college online.”
That makes it a challenge to find ways to really help those groups build connections with each other. Simandl has, however, taken one cue from the pandemic and taking advantage of the virtual meeting tools that became common.
“We have 15,000 employees all across the United States, so we've been having a big push in how to connect all of those different people together, even though we are so far apart,” she says.
For instance, using the breakout rooms feature in Zoom, Werner has developed a sort of “speed networking” system (kind of like “speed dating"), for which she says feedback has been great.
“We've gotten a lot of involvement both from those who are new to Werner, those who are newer in their careers, and also, thankfully, we’ve had a lot of leadership who’s been excited to participate and meet the new faces of Werner.”
There also are efforts to get employees together in person outside of work, and the Women Leaders Alliance runs an annual mentor program to match newer employees looking for a mentor at Werner with experienced leaders who volunteer to mentor.
Unsurprisingly, when asked what she’s proud of, while Simandl mentions several awards she has received, “I have to say that probably the thing that makes me most proud is seeing my own team succeed. I am happy to say that I've been able to develop many individuals into promotions and alternate opportunities for themselves, thus growing everything internally for Werner and the industry as a whole.
“Obviously, with my masters being leadership and coaching, that's something that I'm really passionate about. And being able to see those successes through each of them is really important to me.”